In Dubious Battle



Pixley Cotton Strike, 1933Considered his first major work and the first of his labor trilogy, In Dubious Battle (1936) garnered John Steinbeck serious and positive critical attention and provided the reading public with a foretaste of the philosophical speculations about group behavior, social inequality, and human rights that would characterize many of his later well-known works. The novel is loosely based on historical events from peach and cotton strikes in California in 1933, especially the Pixley Cotton Strike, which took place about 50 miles north of Bakersfield, California. Like later, more famous Steinbeck novels, such as Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath, In Dubious Battle dramatizes humanity's capacity for great moral fortitude and justice in addition to shameful and selfish greed, suspicion, and violence. The reader is left to ponder whether any just solution to labor problems actually exists.